The Underground Man

Dostoevsky’s Underground Man is an intriguing character, to say the least. He’s incredibly paradoxical, which fits in with Berman’s definition of modernity in All That’s Solid Melts Into Air. In the beginning of Dostoevsky’s novella, the narrator describes himself as a spiteful man, but soon contradicts himself in saying that he was not even capable of spite. After each point he makes, he provides a counterpoint that negates what was previously said.

I feel I find some common ground with this Underground Man. He thinks himself somehow “above” other humans intellectually, which contrasts with the “underground” image given to him. While he feels this sense of superiority in his mind, his actions belie this sentiment. He is a mouse of a man; he lets others walk all over him, and he’s resentful of this fact. However, he’s a great thinker. He is acutely aware of himself, but he finds this awareness to be detrimental to his happiness. In other words, he’s too smart for his own good. He realizes that he is merely a pawn, a body to fill a planned role, and he is unhappy with this awareness. As they say, ignorance is bliss.

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